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Tag Archives: Wealth inequality

An Open Letter to the corporations and people of the 1%

Dear Winners,

Congratulations on all your achievements. You have all played the game of capitalism like absolute champions, and you are, without doubt, superlative operatives of the capitalist system. Kudos to you.

Obviously it has taken a huge amount of vision, hard work, guts and determination to get you to where you are now, and I think every one agrees you should be duly compensated for all your (and your employees) efforts; and I am personally relieved to know that you have all been sufficiently remunerated so as to never want for anything ever again. Once again, kudos to you.

While I am absolutely dazzled by your stellar successes, there are a few things about the way you conduct your lives and businesses that I find quite baffling, and I was hoping you might be able to clear up my confusion.

Firstly, I want to share a little something with you that we in the 99% have known for quite some time . . .

YOU’VE WON ALREADY!

With the richest 85 people in the world now owning the same amount of wealth as the 3.5 billion who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, there can be no question, in the game of acquisition you are the undisputed winners. NO CONTEST!

So here’s what puzzles me . . . Do you not realise the game is over and that you have won? Because quite honestly the way you are carrying on, it’s like a boxer relentlessly pummelling an opponent that is passed out on the ropes, it’s just not sportsmanlike, and really, it’s not making you look good.

starving

In spite of all your wealth and unmitigated successes you continue to slash real wages, cut costs, off shore, out source, trim benefits, buy off politicians, lobby for favourable legislation, dodge taxes, and exploit loopholes with a staggering rapacity. In your relentless drive for profit you mercilessly exploit sub living wages, control the public discourse through your media domination, and poison and pollute our world with utter impunity.

poverty 2

So my question is this . . . why are you continuing to play hard ball when you have so clearly already won? Surely at a certain point the figures displayed on your profit statements must start to seem fairly abstract? What on earth are you hoping to achieve? Do you really need a better quarterly result? What for? You already have everything that money could possibly buy you. And quite frankly if being stupefyingly wealthy hasn’t made you happy yet, it’s bordering on disillusion to think that a few more zeros on your balance sheet are going to do the trick.

And if you are truly happy with all you have achieved, then don’t you think it might be just the teensiest bit psychopathic to keep on punching when the fight is so clearly over?

While I personally find your unabated appetite for capital acquisition somewhat unfathomable, it obviously makes perfect sense to you, (either that or you have never actually sat down to analyse the broader costs and benefits of your chosen course). Given the utter pain, despair and deprivation suffered by the world’s poor, (such as the average Bangladeshi garment worker who works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in dangerous, overcrowded conditions for a paltry $38 a month), I am sure you must have some very good reasons for your steadfast persistence in squeezing those at the bottom even harder. Although I struggle to understand what those reasons may be I have, in my speculations, come up with a few possibilities.

1. You are competing amongst and against yourselves.

I suspect there is a fair bit of this going on among you 1% ers’. It’s not enough that you have well and truly surpassed the 99%, (it would appear that that victory has long since lost it’s taste); now it’s just a competition between you 1% er’s to see who’s got the biggest bank account/company/summer house/yacht.

forbes billionairs

I find it difficult to attach any other motive to the recent attempt by Rupert Murdoch (one of your most famous poster boys) to acquire Time Warner. At 85 years of age, the builder and controller of the largest News Empire on the planet is still playing for more? Doesn’t he realise that to most people this just looks like the chest beating, ego pumping manoeuvre of a recently cuckolded old man trying desperately to prove that he’s still top dog? Kind of tragic really, and a little undignified.

The sad fact is this is not a game that can be won, no matter how much you’ve got you will always want more, it’s a bottomless bucket of desire.

So let me say it once again ; if you in the 1% can not be content with what you have already achieved, then trust me, one more victory is not going to help.

2. You are simply acting out of blind habit and you have never bothered to stop and question what you are actually doing?

I am willing to bet that this is bottom line for quite a number of you. You learnt the rules, and you’ve played the game so hard and so long that it’s the only game you now know. You live for the sport of it, the hunt, the chase, the endless craving for that next conquest; the ruthless reduction of wages, the corporate take over, the quarterly profit statement, the pumping up of your share price, the tucking of another politician snuggly into your pocket, this is your heroin.

handcuffed-to-money

You are, for want of a better word, addicted to the game. If this indeed is the case then let me remind you of something I am sure you already know; addiction is not a road to happiness! It is an itch you can never scratch in an endless cycle of craving and pain, and it effects every one around you (and not in good way).

3. You are completely ignorant about the suffering you are causing others?

This is a bit of a stretch, but I am prepared to concede that SOME OF YOU may have spent so little time out in the big, wide, underprivileged world, have spent your lives so steeped in privilege as to have no idea of the havoc you are wreaking, the pain you are causing, and the abject poverty you are creating.

mansion homeless 1

That said it’s worth remembering that ignorance is no excuse, neither in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of those whose necks you are so gleefully standing on.

4. You still feel genuinely insecure?

I realise that most people wouldn’t suspect it, but there is some research that suggests the richer you are the more insecure you feel, if this is true then you 1% er’s must be living in an absolute paranoid lather; worried that people don’t really care about you and are just drawn to your money, or maybe just fearful that you might loose your money. Clearly your answer to this is to get more money (so you will still have some left if and when you loose a wad) and surround yourselves with other hyper rich people, (who have enough money not to be eyeing off yours).

fear of poverty

At the risk of repeating myself; if you in the 1% can not feel secure with what you have already have, then trust me, a bit more money is not going to help.

5. You simply don’t care about others?

I admit I find this highly unlikely. I am sure you love your family and friends, and would go to great lengths to protect them. What maybe the case however is that you do not experience yourselves as part of the broader human family; and thus those that are not known to you personally are too abstract to you to evoke your natural caring human instincts.

homeless america please help

This disconnect is broadly supported by a media narrative that casts the “have nots” as either lacking in the smarts to get ahead, or as shiftless lazy leaners trying to gouge a free ride, which makes it much easier to see them as deserving of their wretched fate, (after all, they are not hard working, self made actualisers like you and your cohorts).

While I understand you may find this narrative very comforting, and a perfectly adequate justification for your modus operandi, that doesn’t make it true. Even here in the west there are plenty of people working 2-3 jobs, 80 hours or more just to subsist, so you could not call them lazy. And does a person possessed of an average or lower intelligence really deserve to be denied a decent life just because they were born sub-brilliant?

6. You have never read the history of the French Revolution?

Perhaps you are not aware that history is awash with stories where the peasants decide that quietly starving is not a viable option and have taken up arms against their wealthy oppressors. And as a general rule when they get their hands on them, they kill them!

Now I’m not agitating for that, I don’t want to see you, or anyone else killed; but it’s worth noting that when legislation is passed making it illegal to feed the homeless, when you cut off the water to supply to poorest 1/3 of a city, when you squeeze wages and benefits to the point where employees need to work 3 jobs, never get to see their children and can barely make rent. When you smash unions, or fail to pay your taxes so their is no money for social support…. you need to understand you are creating an environment you may not be able to control. Keep playing hard ball and eventually THE PITCH FORKS WILL COME!

french revolution

7. You are genuinely unaware of your power to effect change?

With the stroke of a pen the Walton family could raise tens of millions out of abject poverty, and it wouldn’t make a whip of difference to them personally; they wouldn’t have to go without anything. NIKE could raise the wages of it’s manufacturing staff to a living standard, and all it would cost them would be one or two less basketball players in an ad.

How is it that you guys are not doing this? Don’t you get it? YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD for millions and millions of people.

Bill Gates gets it, Oprah gets it, Bob Geldof gets it, Nick Hanauer gets it, Bill Liao gets it, and whether or not you like their choices, they are all out there pitching for a better world.

I realise the system has it’s own momentum, and you are just going with the flow, but the system is causing insane amounts of grief and suffering for billions of people.

We have more than enough food to feed the planet, but people are starving; we have cities full of empty houses and streets full of homeless people; we have amazing medicines and people dying for lack of access; there are cities with water supplies denying clean water to citizens. Does this seem right to you?

What kind of life should a person working full time be able to afford? Should they be able to afford a house, food and water, healthcare and an education for their children? I really want to know your thoughts on this, because it looks to me like you think a living wage is way too high?

But seriously, would it kill you to pay living wages?

So I am asking you, the 1% er’s, what exactly is your end game? Pushing billions of people into crushing poverty so you can die with a bigger bank balance? Is that really what you want for your legacy? Does that make you happy? Because if not, then maybe it’s time you guys stirred things up a bit; raised some wages, paid some taxes perhaps, who knows, maybe working towards a better world for ALL of our human family will be the trick! It might seem like a crazy idea, but it’s worth a try.

Rich wankers

Let me start out by saying that I know many rich people who have a social conscience and for whom this post is not relevant. But I also know many who are wankers. And I’m sick of these wankers ruining it for all of us.

When I say ruining it, I mean doing dumb things like voting for Tony Abbott and for encouraging many others to do this too. ‘It’ in this scenario is our community. But the problem with many rich people is that they don’t even think they belong to a community. Many try to closet themselves away from the ‘general public’, because they think they’re above all that. A great example of this sort of attitude is the very existence of ‘poor doors’ which I came across in this article about London housing. Of course Australia doesn’t have ‘poor doors’ because we have hardly any apartment buildings, or even suburbs, where ultra-expensive-designed-for-the-very-rich housing is mixed in closely with more affordable housing, or even public housing. But apparently in London, developers often need to include affordable housing within apartment blocks in order to get planning approval. So what do these developers do to make sure their rich clientele don’t have to even see the poor tenants in the building, let alone have to breathe the same air as them? Yes, you guessed it. They have separate entrances. The apartheid between rich and poor – a glamorous lobby for the rich and a meagre side-entrance in a scummy lane for the poor. It’s almost as if the rich are scared they’ll catch ‘poor’ off their neighbours and would prefer to live in a closeted bubble where they don’t have to know these nasty poor people exist. Unless of course they need a taxi, or a teacher, or a meal at a restaurant, or a trades person or, god forbid, a nurse in a hospital.

I also note that there is now solid evidence, in the form of peer reviewed research, that proves many rich people have a sense of entitlement which presents as the ‘asshole effect’. Have you ever noticed that it’s the large, shiny, expensive cars which appear to be driven by the most aggressive, least-likely-to-let-you-into-traffic, most-difficult-to-share-the-road-with-drivers? If you have noticed this, it turns out it’s not just in your head, because this research shows that it really is the rich drivers who are the biggest wankers on the roads. And I think this road user behaviour is a perfect analogy for the problems rich wankers cause in our community. The key point of this research is that the rich weren’t wankers to begin with, unless of course they started out rich. But it actually shows that when people reach a certain level of wealth they believe they are entitled to exploit others, to behave rudely and to be mean to their community because they have earned this right. Is this a good time to mention that all three men involved in the last Liberal Federal leadership ballot are Members from three of the richest electorates in the country – Turnbull in Wentworth, Hockey in North Sydney and Abbott in Warringah? Funny that. Is it any surprise that these men were the architects of the meanest Federal Budget this country has ever seen?

So we know many rich people are wankers and it’s clear they’re ruining our community for everyone, and I agree there is probably little we can do to change these people’s behaviour. Their narcissism is likely entrenched. However I would like to try a new strategy for encouraging these rich wankers to think twice before ruining it for all of us again. I have been harping on about this topic a lot in recent months, and let me be upfront in saying I’m not about to give up on this quest, because it’s important. Wealth inequality. The rich think wealth inequality is great for them and they’re more than happy to continue promoting it. In fact, they think they’re entitled to snatch and grab as much of the country’s pie as they can get their grubby hands on. Many no doubt think their greed is as natural as the animal instinct for survival. Most of them think tax-evasion is clever. However, it’s time to question the very basis of this attitude and to question it loudly. Because wealth inequality is not just bad for all of us who aren’t rich. It’s also bad for the rich. And no, I’m not about to say it’s bad for them because they should care about other people and they’ll find much more happiness in human relationships with a diverse range of people rather than falling in love with money. I don’t really care about the happiness of the greedy. I’m saying that what is bad for the wealth of the community is also bad for the rich. The rich need all of us to be wealthier in order to maintain their own wealth. The rich need to pay their fair share of tax so that the government can fairly distribute wealth for the betterment of all of us. The rich need to learn that the pie must grow in order to keep growing their piece of it. A rising tide only lifts all boats if the boats are in the tide, not broken and stranded on the shore. If you don’t believe me, ask Joseph Stiglitz. He’s got a Nobel Prize for researching this very idea. Or just have a think about how the rich got rich in the first place. Sure, some of them make money from the money they already have. But think of it this way. If people work full time and can’t afford to buy the things that the rich are selling – such as mortgages, consumer goods, food, education, insurance, cars, then how are the rich going to hold onto their wealth? And back to education, if the masses aren’t educated successfully, who will work for the rich? Because no one ever got rich on their own. Wealth does not trickle down and this should be just as concerning for the rich as it is the poor. Australia needs a large and strong working and middle class in order for the country to maintain a successful community AND a successful economy. People can be wankers on their own, but they can’t be rich on their own. That’s what we need to tell them.